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The Year Ahead in Technology

Though we’re not quite the Jetsons yet, there’s no doubt that technology continues to make leaps forward.

Worldwide consultancy Deloitte recently highlighted the top innovations to watch for next year in its Technology Industry Outlook 2017 report. The list highlights many tech areas already of keen interest to the apparel industry.

Among the top opportunities Paul Sallomi of Deloitte identified are the so called “exponential” technologies, which include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. Already we’re seeing robots in fulfillment houses like the one speeding up deliveries by threefold at Hudson Bay Canada and even in retail stores, like the TORY bots assisting with inventory and customer service in Adler shops in Germany.

Machine learning, natural language process and speech and pattern recognition also ranked as innovations set to expand. And again, for the apparel industry, the future is now. For instance, machine learning already powers personal shopping subscription service Stitch Fix, and online marketplace etsy recently bolstered its search capabilities using natural language processing.

The Internet of things, or the connectedness of all of the machines, computers and gadgets in our lives, made the list. The most visible example are devices like Google Home, which control every aspect of our homes and allow us to access the web with our voices. This type of technology could have huge implications as the industry continually looks for ways to streamline the supply chain, speeding up deliveries and making the process more transparent.

Sallomi said as companies move forward in these areas, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, he suggested we look for ways the gig economy can make our businesses more flexible, something we’re already seeing with mega merchandiser Amazon, which is developing an app to connect shippers and truckers.

Second, Sallomi pointed out that as technology evolves, regulations will become more complex. The ongoing online tax dispute playing out at the Supreme Court level is a prime example of how laws have failed to keep pace with innovation, and new legislation may need to be considered.